W. Edwards Deming: Aligning Science and Religion

einstein science religion

Updated Jan 27, 2023 

This post at LinkedIn.

Optimal performance in any aspect of life is not possible without a basic awareness and understanding of variation and the inter-relationship between science and religion. The contributions of W. Edwards Deming regarding quality improvement are more commonly known within the management, engineering, and statistical communities.  Deming’s work is not commonly known within philosophical and religious circles.

Albert Einstein on Religion and Science 

  • Objective knowledge provides us with powerful instruments for the achievements of certain ends, but the ultimate goal itself and the longing to reach it must come from another source.
  •  Intelligence makes clear to us the interrelation of means and ends. But mere thinking cannot give us a sense of the ultimate and fundamental ends. To make clear these fundamental ends and valuations, and to set them fast in the emotional life of the individual, seems to me precisely the most important function which religion has to perform in the social life of man. 

Definitions (Briticanna)

  • science, any system of knowledge that is concerned with the physical world and its phenomena and that entails unbiased observations and systematic experimentation. In general, a science involves a pursuit of knowledge covering general truths or the operations of fundamental laws.
  • religion, human beings’ relation to that which they regard as holy, sacred, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of special reverence.
  • philosophy, (from Greek, by way of Latin, philosophia, “love of wisdom”) the rational, abstract, and methodical consideration of reality as a whole or of fundamental dimensions of human existence and experience. 

Clare-Crawford Mason introduced the relevance of Deming’s contributions within the context of philosophy. She was the producer of the NBC documentary “If Japan Can, Why Can’t We?” (1980) which introduced Deming’s work to America. This led to Deming’s book Out of the Crisis (1982). The first edition of Deming’s book, The New Economics was published in 1993.

Collection – Clare Crawford Mason articles- Curious Cat Management Improvement

  • Better Questions, Wiser Answers, Washington Times, July 1, 2007
    • The Deming-Toyota-Baldrige method and systems thinking can improve schools, government agencies or any organization, even military invasions and occupations because it offers new ways to look at the bigger picture. It allows an organization to be greater than the sum of its parts as the people in the system learn to work together more effectively.
    • Why is there no national debate on more effectively managing these critical systems of our society? Why don’t leaders/candidates investigate and discuss new ways of approaching problems? The role of leadership is to identify problems and propose solutions. If new ways of thinking and defining problems are needed, that should be the subject of the presidential campaign.

Not commonly mentioned including by Clare-Crawfored Mason, is that Deming was a devout Christian and would have been heavily influenced by a Biblical worldview.   I provide additional information on the likely effect of this influence in my posts and website.

Additional information:

Deming also acknowledged the influence of C.I. Lewis who was introduced to him by Walter A. Shewhart. In 1986, Deming stated that “Another half-century may pass before the full spectrum of Dr. Shewhart’s contributions has been revealed in liberal education, science, and industry.” (Walter Shewhart, Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control (New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1986), p. ii.).

In the first edition of his book: The New Economic, Deming used referenced the term “metanoia” (spiritual conversion).  This term was eliminated in future editions that were published after Deming’s death.  Metanoia and Transformation II – Norman Todd , The Way, 52/2 (April 2013),

  • …  when I read the first edition of Deming’s book The New Economics, I found a short section that described a fundamental change of mind-set on which all subsequent organizational transformation depended. The section was headed ‘Metanoia’. In later editions it is retitled ‘The First Step’.
  • People who knew Dr. Deming well have assured me that he was a sincere, practicing Christian who played the organ in church and composed sacred music. But when I asked at his seminar if he had applied his teaching to the organization of the Church, he looked puzzled and said he had not.
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